Your cats are your children

To go with the Barbara Crooker poem that we were discussing earlier in the week, I want to share this one by Marge Piercy.

Your cats are your children

Certain friends come in, they say
Your cats are your children.
hey smile from a great height on down.
Clouds roll in around their hair.
have real children, they mean,
while you have imitation.

My cats are not my children.
I gave Morgaine away yesterday
to a little boy she liked.
I’m not saving to send them to Harvard.
When they stay out overnight, I don’t call the police.

I like the way they don’t talk
The way they do, eyes shining
or narrowed, tails bannering,
paws kneading, cats with private
lives and passions sharp as their claws,
hunters, lovers, great sulkers.

No, my children are my friends,
my lover, my dependents on whom
I depend, those few for whom
I will rise in the middle of the night to give
comfort, massage, medicine
whose calls I always take.

My children are my books
that I gestate for years,
a slow-witted elephant
eternally pregnant, books
that I sit on for eras like the great
auk on a vast marble egg.

I raise them with loving care,
I groom and educate them,
I chastise, reward and adore.
I exercise them lean and fatten them up.
I roll them about my mind all night
and fuss over them in the mornings.

Then they march off into the world
to be misunderstood, mistreated, stolen,
to be loved for the wrong reasons,
to be fondled, beaten, lost.
Now and then I get a postcard
from Topeka Kansas, doing just fine.

People take them in and devour them.
People marry them for love.
People write me letters and tell me
how they are my children too.
I have children whose languages
rattle dumbly in my ears like gravel,

children born of the wind that blows
through me from the graves of the poor
and brave who struggled all their short
throttled lives to free people
whose faces they could not imagine.
Such are the children of my words.

Marge Piercy, from My Mother’s Body

I’m not sure what it says about me that I’m charmed by Piercy’s imagining of her books as children, growing up to have lives of their own, but am slightly alarmed by Crooker’s vision of her child as a poem, something she created.

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